Redundancy epidemic

IN the wake of the global economic downturn, many people I know are having to learn to cope with becoming redundant in their 40s, 50s or 60s. And it’s not an easy task.

Many of my friends are journalists who have taken payouts and left not only their job but their identity at a stage in life when energy is declining and optimism is not the nonstop flow it used to be.

Meanwhile, the ABC in the US reported: ‘‘Just as millions of American manufacturing jobs were lost in the 1980s and 90s, today white-collar American jobs are disappearing.’’ It laments that many jobs are being contracted out overseas — for example, American computer programmers can earn about $60,000 a year, while their Indian counterparts only make $6000.

Here public servants, teachers, bankers, financial, IT and media experts are being laid off in the wake of rocky economic conditions across the world. Retail jobs are also going as small businesses flounder. A recent report by Macquarie Bank warns that Australians should brace for a ‘‘white-collar recession’’ by early next year, with the unemployment rate tipped to rise to up to 6 per cent.

In the wake of the crisis, I interviewed Sydney psychologist Jo Anne Baker, who is working as an employment consultant with the newly redundant teaching them coping skills. She says it’s OK to grieve over what you’ve lost. There’ll be time to become positive and move on, but there first needs to be emotional reconciliation and the normal grief reactions of shock, denial, and anger before acceptance.

After this process, she cautions, don’t waste time thinking negative thoughts; don’t blame yourself. Rather, reframe. Think of ways to finally do what you’ve wanted to do and how to achieve it. Dare to dream and be open to the possibility that you may well achieve a lifelong wish. She says remaining flexible and adaptable is the key. Bend like the willow, not the oak.

She says in order to find a new path, look at structures where you’ve thrived. If you are a social person who’s worked in a large office, don’t sit at home. Find a shared space in a busy part of town or work from a cafe and explore being self-employed or making money from a creative pursuit. If you are a person who needs deadlines, go into a retraining course that forces you to produce for marks.

My own advice is to keep your mind off self-pity and stay focused. I bumped into a ‘‘redundant’’ journalist the other day. I commiserated with him. He just laughed and said, ‘‘But wasn’t it a spectacular ride!’’

With this attitude, it’s no wonder he’s just been offered another job.


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